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Monday 18 April 2011

Testes Time

Hi folks,

Had to come home and lie down in a dark room after events last evening and I'm glad I let the dust settle before putting fingers to keyboard, as I'm certain my comments would've been far more rancorous.

However having benefited from being able to put yesterday's draw into some perspective, if you exclude those eventful last few minutes (and BTW unlike AW, I'm not going to be so hypocritical as to complain about the ref's timekeeping, as when it took umpteen first-aiders what felt like an eternity to decide what stretcher to use for Jamie Carragher, I was whinging that, as ever, there'd be no way we'd be getting an equal amount of injury time added on at the end!) what really galls me is god awful feeling of dissatisfaction, with a Gunners side who were so far from leaving me with the sense that they left everything out there on the pitch, in their effort to cling on, with every last breath in their body to our ever decreasing prospects of ending our barren run.

I so badly wanted to win yesterday, not because I've seen anything to suggest we're truly capable of pipping Man Utd to the title, but because I wanted to keep the spark of feint hope alive, to inspire me to schlep all the way up to the unglamorous likes of Bolton and Stoke knowing we still have something to play for. But I have to admit that amongst many around me at the Emirates and for those on the pitch on Sunday, I didn't really get the sense that it mattered to them quite so much?

Instead of which, I've been left feeling so utterly deflated that despite having so much more to comment on, I thought that if I don't get this posted now, I'll never find the enthusiasm to bother doing it. The most patently obvious missing ingredient in our current squad remains the lack of leadership because when I looked around the pitch with fifteen left on the clock, you realised that there wasn't a single player out there, either with the personality or the commitment to the Arsenal cause to cajole and inspire the others. In fact Sczczny apart, I don't recall anyone talking to their team mates and for far too long now the good ship Gooner has come up short in such crucial situations as these, due to the fact that sadly there's no one at the helm doing the steering.

For all Manny's culpability in conceding an unnecessary penalty, when I watched the highlights on MOTD2 last night, I realized that it need never have come to this, if only young Woijech had benefited from the sort of commanding presence on the pitch who was capable of bellowing at him moments earlier, to hang on to the ball for a few seconds and then calmly roll it out to a red shirt, instead of hoofing it upfield and handing the Scousers the possession which they converted into the subsequent costly free-kick.

I was also a little surprised listening to the radio as I walked back from the ground and then the post-match comments on the box after I returned home, hearing the media and pundits offering the Scousers so many plaudits. Personally if I'd been a Liverpool fan, I would have been disappointed to have travelled down from Merseyside, only to see my team play with such limited ambition (in fact considering they spent the entire game bypassing the midfield, I'm astonished that we didn't once respond to such unentertaining, percentage football with a single teasing refrain of "Liverpool hoof the ball" - and believe me I tried several times).

As I've said below, it is perhaps understandable, in light of the way in which their defence was decimated and with Daglish doing his best merely to stabilize such a leaky Scouse ship. But having been impressed by the little I've seen of Suarez, I was quite looking forward to seeing the Uruguayan striker in the flesh. However he did little of note on Sunday with the ball sailing over his head on the rare occasions that the visitors had possession. And if I was supporting a team that had just invested the £50 odd million they received for Torres on a strike-partnership, I have to admit I'd be just a little disappointed by their "hoof it up to the big lad" tactics. As an option up front Carroll is a useful target man, but it looks to be a bit of a Catch-22 if it's going to always encourage them to look for his ability to win the ball in the air.

What's more, compared to the headache Carroll has managed to cause defences in a Toon shirt, I thought both Djourou and Koscielny had the long-haired git (I can say that now, having recently been sheared for the summer) in their pocket for the most part.

In saying that, after having seen the highlights on MOTD2 last night I became more aware of the sort of effort and commitment some of the Scouse youngsters put into this game. What I wouldn't give for the Gunners to have shown equal measures of passion and commitment of the likes of Spearing (the poor little bugger seems to have hit all the branches of the ugly tree on his way down) and the 2 young full-backs.

What's more, hard as I try, I can't help but admire Dalglish for having the balls to trust in the appetite and desire of some his teenage Scousers, rather than relying on some of Liverpool's more impassive, overpaid stars. And in contrast to the more vindictive David Moyes, I have to respect Kenny's refusal to talk about what transpired at the final whistle.

Perhaps time to limit my own loquacious tendencies

Keep the faith


OK hands up! Never mind the seemingly never-ending saga of Manny Eboué’s infuriating naivety, I take full responsibility for the injury-time fiasco at the Emirates on Sunday. You’d think I’d know better by now than to have tempted fate to kick us Gooners in the testes, as only on Saturday evening I was joking with my West Ham pal about his nephew’s angry reaction to Agbonlahor’s late winner for Villa and the fact that it left the Irons’ fan fighting amongst themselves outside Upton Park.

I fatally intoned the sentiments of Kipling, suggesting that at least age and experience has benefited us with the ability to meet with triumph and disaster and to treat those two impostors just the same. As we all know, these words came back to haunt me as I hollered myself hoarse the following afternoon, spending most of Sunday’s encounter with the Scousers, imploring for more passion and more urgency from our players.

If le Gaffer appeared ungracious at the final whistle, compared to me Arsène was calmness personified, as frustration got the better of me and I turned to vent my fury on the nearest inanimate object. At least I have an excuse for letting my emotions get the better of me, having never been schooled in the Oriental ways of “Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. But I imagine we were both left regretting our reactions. I know I was as I limped home, after kicking the crap out of my 1000 quid seat.

Possibly le Prof was left kicking himself for relenting and once again indulging the immature antics of Eboué. Thanks largely to Sagna’s consistency, Manny seems to have spent most of the season paying for past crimes, confined to the bench and contributing merely as the club’s official court jester (with only the bells missing from his whacky apparel). Manny might not find Arsène quite so forgiving after his latest faux-pas?

Forget the inevitable debate over the dramatic injury-time denouement. Above all, the most disappointing aspect was that during the relatively drab 90 minutes that preceded it, from the lack of fervor from the terraces and the uninspired football on the pitch, the lukewarm demeanour of both fans and players alike, left me feeling as if far too few of the red & white hordes arrived at the Emirates on Sunday, prepared to put heart & soul into one last roll of the Premiership title dice.

After Mancini’s Billionaires finally brought the curtain down on the Red Devils’ treble dreams in Saturday’s FA Cup semi, Sunday’s game presented us with the perfect opportunity to turn the screw and to apply a little more pressure upon the league leaders. As a result and with Daglish coming to the Emirates intent on trying to consolidate the Scousers burgeoning confidence, seemingly content to merely thwart the Gunners, I would’ve much preferred to have witnessed a “balls out” statement from Wenger, risking a three-pronged attack, or at the very least two strikers, on this “all or nothing” result.

Instead of which Arsène insists on incessantly gifting away home advantage with his quasi-religious conversion to 4-5-1. I don’t know any Arsenal fan who perceives Van Persie as an potent lone striker. Admittedly Robin was effective up front earlier on in the season, but back then opposition defences had to cope with the distraction of 4 midfielders bombing on into dangerous areas, whereas more recently we find ourselves complaining about the dearth of red & white in the penalty area, with a lack of drive and determination that results in all our football being played in front of the opposition’s defence.

This was particularly evident on Sunday, as the Gunners were once again guilty of sitting back for much of this match and waiting for the Scousers thoroughly committed defence to part like the waters of the Red Sea and offer them an opening. Perhaps my most oft repeated criticism of le Gaffer is his failure to tinker tactically, in order to target opponent’s potential weaknesses. Considering the Scousers were depending on two teenage full-backs for most of the 90, I was flabbergasted by our failure to exploit Walcott’s pace and that it took until Shava's introduction late-on for anyone to probe the flanks.

Truth was, with the likes of Fabregas, Wilshere and Nasri all failing to fire on four cylinders, we looked a tired outfit on Sunday. Sadly I doubt Fergie left our directors box feeling he had anything much to fear. To the contrary, so long as the Gunners continue to demonstrate that they don’t have the wherewithal to take advantage, the knowledge that Man Utd can comfortably afford to slip up is more likely to enable them to relax and play some football!

Considering we were viewed as the team most likely to slip out of the top four when the reverse fixture was taking place back in August, perhaps we’ve little cause to complain. But in truth I would’ve preferred for our dead parrot of a title challenge to have expired in a bland scoreless draw, than to have experienced the crushing blow of the acute plummet from the all too brief euphoria of having our feint hopes reignited in those last few seconds, only to be snuffed out again moments later. Better still perhaps if we’d blown all 3 points because we were hell bent on glory. At least this would’ve offered the comforting reassurance of a team who’s desire matches my own.

Forget the title, at this precise point in time I will gladly settle for success on any terms against Spurs on Wednesday night, so we might at least salvage some North London pride, while giving Gooners everywhere good cause to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our local rivals last league success.

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DrShaglove said...

I always look forward to reading your missives. Whilst watching the Liverpool match at home on Sunday, and any time I'd previously seen Liverpool this season when Spearing played, I was struck by how bloody ugly Spearing is -- he's got an ugliness that doesn't warrant sympathy, it is an uncomfortable, sinister ugliness. Yours was the first comment I've read in agreement with my own opinion, but the way you put it was freaking hilarious.

Bern said...

Thanks mate. Kind comments much appreciated. Least Spearing can't be said to be "two-faced", or else he certainly wouldn't come out wearing that one :-)

But what I wouldn't give for a little more of his terrier like tendencies amongst our lot!